Finally, we begin our journey through the 1990s music, the last decade of the 20th century. We will dive into the years of Generation X that marked both popular culture with their nihilism and unhappiness, as well as the suicides of the great voices of the moment. But that’s not all, because with this selection of the 900 90s best songs, we will conclude our list of old songs, which, from 1950 to 1999 alone, already contains 2000 songs, not counting the lists from previous years.
When we talk about the best music of the 90s, names like Nirvana or The Offspring probably come to mind, but it was also the era of groups like Backstreet Boys or Spice Girls, among many others. In this post, we will recommend our favorite songs from 1990 to 1999, and talk about the future years too. We do this for ease of reading, as well as to better savor all the available songs, understanding that faced with a list of 900 90s songs, some might feel overwhelmed and, instead of discovering all the tracks, might stick to the ones they know.
Our intention in presenting this list of 1990s music is simply to make known, remember, and celebrate all kinds of bands, singers, and artists in general. We don’t care about their fame, nor the aversions, perversions, or fanaticism they generate. If the passage of time is useful for anything, it is to create distance from the past. It makes no sense to hate 2Pac or The Notorious B.I.G. for the East Coast-West Coast rivalry, for example. It’s pointless to argue whether The Notorious B.I.G. or 2Pac were this or that, or compare who is better. We only care about one thing: the music they made (and sometimes the lyrics too, but sometimes not).
The best music of the 90s: Playlist of 900 tracks and selection
With some of the names mentioned in the introduction, we have probably given enough clues to understand where our choices are heading, but we hope to surprise you with some of the titles that are coming up. If you already know this blog, you know we have a predilection for Nu Metal, for example, so maybe we’ll go a bit crazy there, but we are the children of those times. 1990s music in English was quite diverse. American hip-hop in the 90s became the most successful genre in the market, and rock was still special and unique. All of this influenced the following decade, which many consider the worst in terms of music, but there will be a bit of everything.
The playlist of 90s songs follows one simple rule: that we like them. Obviously, some had a harder time making it to the list, while others made it in instantly. That’s the beauty of having very different tastes and not being too nostalgic about childhood. Either way, we hope you enjoy the repertoire of the best of 90s music that we bring to you, and remember that you have the playlist on Spotify if you want to follow along there as well.
AC/DC – Thunderstruck (1990)
We start 1990 with AC/DC, the musical group par excellence of the 90s (and the 80s, of course). At least that’s how it remained for all rockers who, whether they liked rock or not, associate it with AC/DC and “Highway To Hell” as if there were nothing else. But there we go, we are delighted, because when it comes to great music, this group made it, and we can only tip our hats and enjoy.
Although they started their career in 1973 and had some success in the previous decades, it was only in the 90s that they began to enjoy the fame they have now. This was due, among other things, to a forced change of vocalist at a specific moment, but also to the striking way of dressing and playing guitar on stage of some of its members (specifically Angus Young).
Bryan Adams – (Everything I Do) I Do It For You (1991)
A huge international success that appears on his album “Waking Up the Neighbors” (1991) and on the soundtrack of the movie “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991). A rock ballad that captured a moment in time and still stands today as a good classic.
Even so, for some, it is bland, sentimental, and immature. Nevertheless, 19 countries found it charming enough to reach number one on the music charts. Is popularity equal to quality? It’s a debate that doesn’t interest us, really.
Inner Circle – Sweat (A La La La La Long) (1992)
Although Inner Circle, the Jamaican group formed in Kingston in 1968, had a successful international career with the pro-marijuana and anti-cocaine anthem “Mary Mary” and the album “Everything Is Great” in the late 1979 and early 1980, it was after the premature death of the legendary vocalist Jacob Miller in March 1980 and after going through various ups and downs, that the group re-emerged to achieve great success with the summer hit “Sweat (A La La La La Long).”
Many will remember this melody associated with the summer of 1993, but the album “Bad To The Bone” (where this musical theme that perfectly mixes Reggae and Ragga is found) was actually released in 1992. Of course, we shouldn’t forget the musical success they experienced right after the Hollywood movie “Bad Boys,” with the then-vocalist Calton Coffie.
Ace Of Base – All That She Wants (1993)
If anyone asks what Europop is, the most accurate answer should be “All That She Wants.” Despite being a reggae-pop song that describes a sexually ambiguous woman, it is one of the most memorable songs of the 1990s music worldwide.
Pretenders – I’ll Stand By You (1994)
Maybe it’s because I just watched the TV miniseries “Pistol” (directed by Danny Boyle), but I might be adding The Pretenders to the list after knowing that Chrissie Hynde experienced first-hand the rise, rise, and fall of the Sex Pistols before becoming the leader of a band that many people seemed to deny in the mid-70s.
The Pretenders are an Anglo-American rock band formed in March 1978. Originally, the band consisted of founder and main songwriter Chrissie Hynde (whom I mentioned before), James Honeyman-Scott, Pete Farndon, and Martin Chambers. After Honeyman-Scott’s death in 1982 and Farndon’s in 1983, the band went through numerous personnel changes, with Hynde being the only consistent member of the band.
“I’ll Stand By You” was written by Chrissie Hynde and the songwriting team of Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, and produced by Ian Stanley. The song is a ballad in which the singer promises love and faithful support to a loved one in times of personal darkness.
Fool’s Garden – Lemon Tree (1995)
The German band Fool’s Garden released their third album, “Dish of the Day,” in 1995 without knowing what was about to happen. The band’s vocalist, Peter Freudenthaler, said he wrote the song “Lemon Tree” on a Sunday afternoon while waiting for his girlfriend. Whatever it was, it was released as a single in November 1995 and became an international hit the following year. “Lemon Tree” is truly a timeless pop song.
Fugees – Ready Or Not (1996)
Even if you don’t listen to much rap or hip-hop, the album “The Score” and singles like “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” “Fu-Gee-La,” or “Ready Or Not” are simply irresistible songs. It’s an eccentric and exciting album, but also dark. Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel were some of the best MCs of their generation, and of course, Lauryn Hill outshines both on this record. Timeless stuff and perfect musical production for this remarkable album.
Chumbawamba – Tubthumping (1997)
Among styles like Breakbeat, Downtempo, and Hard Trance, perhaps also Speed Garage, we are actually facing the best that 90s pop-rock left us.
It’s interesting to say that Chumbawamba was a British band with anarcho-communist political leanings that led them to have a irreverent attitude towards authority and embrace a variety of political and social causes, including animal rights and pacifism (in the early part of their career) and later on issues related to class struggle, Marxism, feminism, gay liberation, pop culture, and anti-fascism.
Despite everything, “Tubthumping” is not their most political song, as it talks about themselves as a class and as a band. The beauty of it was that they had no idea how big it would become.
2Pac – Changes (1998)
After the assassination of rapper 2Pac in 1996, many fans hoped that the news was false. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth, but some of them held on to hope as his unreleased works continued to be published year after year.
One of the first and most successful releases was “Changes,” the first single from the “Greatest Hits” album released in 1998. It was produced with an interpolation of Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is” and a sample of the drum loop from Strafe’s “Set It Off.”
The song references the war on drugs, the treatment of blacks by the police, racism, reconciliation between black and white Americans, the perpetuation of poverty and its vicious value system in urban African-American culture, and the difficulties of life in the ghetto.
Backstreet Boys – I Want It That Way (1999)
Reviewing 1990s music without dedicating a featured section to the biggest boy band in the world would have been a crime. With their characteristic sound, that predominant Europop that not only came from Europe, here is “I Want It That Way” to close the decade.
A pop ballad that talks about a tense relationship due to emotional or physical distance. Critically, the song was well-received, with many reviewers praising its catchiness, also calling it the pop ballad of the year.
(Madrid, 1987) Novelist by vocation, SEO specialist by profession. Music lover, cinephile and reading lover, but in “amateur” mode.